The Chess Variant Pages
Custom Search

Rutherford’s 1-dimensional Shogi

I have seen many attempts to create single dimensional chess games. Unfortunately, all that I have tested aren’t particularly fun, or even playable. I have undertaken many personal challenges to create solutions to chess variants that are deemed impossible or unplayable, whether by myself or someone else.

When I first tried to create 1-d chess, I realized that the main problem was that the material would keep being trade off, and unless players were careless, the game would always end in a tie, or white would win with only a rook (or queen, depending on the variant) versus the lone king. I realized there needed to be a lot more variation if one was to create a better game. But chess only has 5 different kinds of warriors to fight for their sovereign. What’s more, attrition would just kill the game, as armies quickly got whittled down. Shogi overcame both of these problems (there are hundreds of different shogi pieces, with many more in regular shogi when compared to chess). It also has been proven to lend itself far better to miniaturization than chess. Unfortunately, a new problem arose. Piece exchanges would go on forever, and the king would never be exposed. He’d remain safe in the back. Some form of weakening had to take place, if not with army size, then with position. Therefore, the king only moves forward, and some dropping and movement restrictions are added.

I feel, after a little experimentation, that I may have developed a truly playable, interesting, and mentally challenging one-dimensional chess variant. The rules follow, and when necessary, I will add comments to explain the logic on my restrictions.

Starting pieces:







Alternate sides (promotions):

+P=GB-go between




+L=RC-reverse chariot

(All pieces except the king promote.)


(The reason for the limited movement you will see is analogous to the maximum amount of squares a piece would normally be able to reach along any single file or diagonal on a two dimensional board. Obviously this isn’t completely held firm (for instance a lance on its starting square could normally reach 8 squares), but I feel that it gives the game balance, as I feel about all my other slight alterations to their analogous moves)

P-1 forward

GB-1 forward or backward

S-1 or 2 jumping forward or 2 jumping backward

G-1 or 2 jumping forward or 1 backward

N-1 or 3 jumping forward

Ph-2 or 3 jumping forward or backward

B-2,4,6, or 8 jumping intervening (odd numbered) spaces. Even numbered must be free to continue movement

C-1-8 unobstructed forward or backward but must have exactly one piece to jump over to make a capture (like a Chinese cannon)

L-1-8 unobstructed forward

RC-1-4 unobstructed forward or backward

K-1 or 2 jumping FORWARD ONLY

(Notice that most normal pieces are forward oriented in movement, like shogi.Though promotions of most add backward movement, the game is very much directed towards the opponent. Behind enemy lines are most weaknesses found, but too far back and your offensive potential is also weakened. Most pieces jump as well, and in many different manners, to increase combination attacks.)


  • The object is, of course, to checkmate the opposing king.
  • Pieces are not distinguished by color but by the direction they point (as in all shogi games).
  • Captured pieces become the property of the captor and a piece may be dropped on any square in place of movement, subject to these restrictions:
    • it may not be placed behind the friendly king (though already placed pieces may moved behind the king, and pieces may be dropped behind the opposing king);
    • it must be dropped at least 2 spaces from the friendly king (though it may move closer);
    • it may check, but not checkmate the opposing king.
    (These make drops weaker, so a king can’t always hold his bodyguards too close. However it also makes it impossible to mate a king who has moved forward with a single drop. Maneuvering is more important than dropping.)
  • Pieces alternately promote and demote after every capture, as in micro-shogi. (Micro-shogi is, I feel, the best small shogi variant, mainly due to this promotion rule. It complicates the game exponentially all by itself.)
  • A dropped piece may be placed at either value.
  • Stalemates (though unlikely to occur) are victories and a drop may be made to effect a stalemate.

Here is the initial setup:

I have experimented with these rules, and feel this may be the best possible version. I actually have not tested the game with anyone else, nor do I claim to be the world’s greatest shogi player, so if anyone finds the game unplayable, tell me. Anyone interested is also free to experiment with their own variations and perhaps perfect this game.

Written by Jonathan Rutherford.
WWW page created: March 20, 2002.